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Books Inc. Reads WHEN SHE WOKE by Hillary Jordan

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan is definitely a Books Inc. favorite! ON SALE NOW!

For the first time ever, Books Inc has selected a single title to promote as a company. When She Woke was selected as our very first BOOKS INC READS novel for its engaging content, compelling characters and contemporary content that is perfectly suited for discussion.!

As the teen voice from Books Inc, NYMBC also highly recommends When She Woke. Read NYMBC’s review below.


Set in the not at all distant future, this dystopian retelling of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter provides a much breezier read than its predecessor. Set in a United States run by an aggressively conservative religious right, When She Woke is the story of a young woman dyed red (“chromed”) as punishment for having an abortion. Jordan’s clipped, distinctively contemporary tone creates a totally plausible landscape of characters whose disparate opinions on chroming elegantly reflect current viewpoints on polarizing topics like abortion and the death penalty.

Though it’s not marketed for teens, NOT YOUR MOTHER’S BOOK CLUB would like to endorse When She Woke as a book for high schoolers. For one, it’d make a great (and perhaps a bit more enjoyable) companion to The Scarlet Letter, which is typically assigned to sophomores; but we also recommend it because the issues that are ruminated upon in this book are ones that teens are confronted with on a daily basis, if not in their personal lives, then certainly in their lives as American citizens on the cusp of voting age. Though few of us like to think of ourselves as single-issue voters, issues like abortion and gay marriage are so divisive that it can often be hard to consider the other side. One of the elements that make When She Woke so compelling is that the issue of abortion is considered, fully, from both sides. It is a careful and honest contemplation like this that creates a safe place for discussion of dangerous topics, and its books like When She Woke that allow for this kind of invaluable discussion.

With our highest recommendations, for advanced teens.


Below is a brief description and some questions (for discussion or just to think about) for when you’ve read it.

Hannah Payne’s life has been devoted to church and family, but after her arrest, she awakens to a nightmare: she is lying on a table in a bare room, covered only by a paper gown, with cameras broadcasting her every move to millions at home, for whom observing new Chromes—criminals whose skin color has been genetically altered to match the class of their crime—is a new and sinister form of entertainment. Hannah is a Red; her crime is murder. The victim, according to the State of Texas, was her unborn child, and Hannah is determined to protect the identity of the father, a public figure with whom she’s shared a fierce and forbidden love.

When She Woke is a fable about a stigmatized woman struggling to navigate an America of a not-too-distant future—where the line between church and state has been eradicated and convicted felons are no longer imprisoned and rehabilitated but chromed and released back into the population to survive as best they can. In seeking a path to safety in an alien and hostile world, Hannah unknowingly embarks on a path of self-discovery that forces her to question the values she once held true and the righteousness of a country that politicizes faith.

“Hillary Jordan channels Nathaniel Hawthorne by way of Margaret Atwood in this fast-paced, dystopian thriller. Unputdownable.” —Valerie Martin, author of The Confessions of Edward Day


1.)    Are there any punishments in our current society as stigmatizing as Chroming?

2.)    Why, in this not-so-distant future, did Jordan decide to create a punishment that made people so visible? Not only from being chromed, but also in the Chrome Wards, where they are videotaped, and once they’re in the real world their location is always tracked and available to public record. How does the theme of sight and surveillance develop throughout the novel?

3.)    How is chroming an effective method of social engineering? Why does it seem destined for failure by the end of the story?

4.)    What about our current socio-political climate makes The Scarlet Letter an apt choice for a contemporary retelling?

5.)    Despite his self-flagellation, Aidan remains silent about his own involvement in Hannah’s choices until the very end of the novel. Do you agree with his and Hannah’s evaluation of the situation, i.e., that it’s more important for people to have faith than it is for one man to admit his guilt? How is he part and party to the structure that created Hannah’s problem? How is he innocent?


Know Your Bookseller! Tracy from Books Inc. Alameda

Meet Tracy! Tracy is a lifelong bookseller and general awesome person. She doesn't typically introduce herself as such, but since we get to write her bio while she's not looking we'll go ahead and give you the truth: Tracy is fantastic. She knows books upside down and inside out, and can help you find the right middle grade or young adult novel for even the most picky of readers. We are extremely fortunate here at Books Inc. to have Tracy on our team. 
Also, she makes a mean carrot soup. That's not relevant to her book knowledge, that's just cool. And delicious.